[Photo: Medieval gauntlet]

July 31, 2014

Throwing Down The Gauntlet

[Photo: medieval gauntlet]

Wikipedia defines “Throw down the gauntlet” as

To “throw down the gauntlet” is to issue a challenge. A gauntlet-wearing knight would challenge a fellow knight… to a duel by throwing one of his gauntlets on the ground. The opponent would pick up the gauntlet to accept the challenge.

Now, if you go to the actual Wikipedia entry, you’ll notice that I excised part of the definition – because what I am about to say has nothing to do with any of my “enemies”, but rather, in fact, addresses my “fellow knights”. That’s because I want to issue a challenge to a group of professionals, some who I know personally, and others only by reputation, but all with whom I share something in common. Specifically, this post is directed to Jeffrey Zeldman, John Alsopp, PPK (Peter Paul Koch), Andy Budd & Jeremy Keith, and Doug Sheppers.

And what we share in common is that we organize web conferences.

Now, I am in no way suggesting that the conference I’ve been organizing (with my colleague and friend Thomas Ford) for the past 6 years can compare to some of the other conferences I’ve referenced in the links above, although I am also quick and proud to add that the caliber of speakers we’ve presented over the years can equal any of the above (Molly Holzschlag, Christian Heilmann, Derek Featherstone, Tantek Celik, Estelle Weyl, Dirk Ginader, Nicole Sullivan, Charles McCathieNevile, Bill Scott, Jonathan Snook, Chris Wilson, Glenda Sims and many, many more). However, unlike those other conferences, we run ours on a shoe-string budget, and admission costs reflect that. That’s neither a good thing, nor a bad thing, it’s just a thing – but a thing worth keeping in mind…

This year, Open Web Camp also joined the ranks of the above, in that for the first time we had New Circle video tape all of our sessions, to be posted to the web after the conference. We were excited at the idea (and thank Peter Lubbers at Google for nudging us there), but, well, as an Accessibility advocate, I had a condition. All of the videos had to be captioned before they were released to the web. It’s the old “eat your own dog food” issue.

So we teamed up with a company I’ve known for a number of years now, 3PlayMedia, and we worked a deal. I can’t discuss specifics, but they gave me a discount in exchange for sponsorship, and they did all of the transcription and time-stamping for our videos. 12 videos, each roughly 50 minutes in length. And I am here to say today that I spent more on the morning’s coffee and pastries than I did on captioning, and earlier today those 12 videos hit the internet.

Which brings us back to the Gauntlet

To my fellow knights: yes, I know what it takes to organize a conference. I understand the costs, be it food, location, technology support, securing and hosting out-of-town speakers, after-conference reception, and all of the myriad of things that need doing to get a conference up and running. But here’s the thing: if I can also do all of that, including having the sessions video-taped – and captioned, then I can confidently say that I think you can too.

And so my challenge is just that: please, can you get your videos captioned?

You guys are all smart, technically-savvy industry leaders. I don’t have to explain to you the benefits of closed captions, nor remind you that the law is starting to rear it’s head, and I won’t, not here (but I’ve provided the links for others). I will tell you that it isn’t hard, it isn’t expensive, and it really does say “you care” – and I know you all do, because I’ve met most of you in person, and I know it to be true. And my promise to you is this: if you need or want help, if you are unsure how to kick this off, let me know – I’m happy to help in any way I can.

That way, everyone wins. And as fellow knights, we can sit around our collective round-table and toast with mead, knowing that we’ve done good in this, our shared domain.

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CC BY-NC-SA 4.0 Throwing Down The Gauntlet by John Foliot is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.

Posted by John

I am a 16 year veteran of Web Accessibility, living and working in Austin, Texas. Currently Principal Accessibility Strategist at Deque Systems Inc., I have previously held accessibility related positions at JPMorgan Chase and Stanford University. I am also actively involved with the W3C - the international internet standards body - where I attempt to stir the pot, fight hard for accessibility on the web, and am currently co-chairing a subcommittee on the accessibility of media elements in HTML5.

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